AS THE man who built an empire, Carlos Ghosn is facing testing times as parts of the empire bite back.
Arrested in Japan for financial misconduct, it was Ghosn who led the clean up of Renault and saved Nissan and Mitsubishi from going under.
Until the scandal, he was chairman of the three companies, as well as chief executive at Renault. He remains the chairman of the Alliance of three brands that employs close to 500,000 people and rolls out 10 million vehicles annually.
The benefits of Ghosn’s cost-cutting measures and shared resources helped all three brands. He benefitted handsomely, to the tune of at least $17 million last year.
Despite his reputation as a cost cutter, Ghosn was unstinting when it came to technology and quality.
Both are in evidence in the Renault Megane R.S., a feisty five-door hatch that, at its price point, delivers performance and value that leaves many other models from more expensive brands behind.
The racing pedigree inherited from F1 is made obvious in design elements like the honeycomb radiator, the chequered flag design lights and the sporty front bumper with a gunmetal grey front blade. Air extractors, full LED lights and a range of eye-grabbing colours are combined to provide a mix of purpose and drive.
Inside, the Alcantara sport bucket seats and steering wheel tell just part of the story. The single instrument dial is complemented by an 8.7” portrait dashboard display that gives you information about the car’s performance on the move. Though, that’s best left for the passenger to fiddle with.
Normally available in manual — and you can understand why — the Megane R.S. is available with a six-speed dual clutch for the first time. It lets the wannabes get a sense of what they’ve been missing out on. But if you wish, you can grab the sporty gear shift, switch it over to manual mode and do some shifting of your own.
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Gun the 1.8-litre aluminium engine (similar to the one found in the Alpine A110 sports car) and get on the move, and you’ll be reluctant to part company with this spirited hatch. The five drive modes are different enough, providing smooth transportation in comfort mode and taking things up several notches in Sport and Race modes.
The sound of the engine is amplified as it gets you in the mood for some gripping driving. Even on city roads, the Megane R.S. makes the journey more than a commute.
With 4Control — 4-wheel steering generally found in high-end cars — the little Megane R.S. is able to negotiate corners by controlling the angle of the wheels at low and high speeds. As a result, it’s more stable around bends and handles tighter spaces better.
Racy And Pacy
In Race mode, the electronic stability control is switched off and you can get more fun out of the machine. It’s quite the little runner as it skips along with abandon, its engine happily rattling along and occasionally making accompanying noises.
Even at normal city driving speeds, it delivers an energetic ride. And given its willingness to nip about, you’ve got to be mindful of the fact the right wing mirror doesn’t swing out enough, so you’ve got to rely on blind spot monitoring to help you along.
Launch control allows you to fling yourself from 0-100kmh in 5.8 seconds, and the big paddle shifters are also equipped for multi-gear downshifts for more aggressive cornering.
Given its size and stature, the Megane R.S. is fleet-footed around obstacles. Its responsiveness is remarkable, and its two distinct personalities — comfort versus sport — make for good mood enhancers when you are in Jekyll or Hyde mode.
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RENAULT MEGANE R.S. TECH SPECS
Engine: 4-cylinder Turbocharged
Max Power: 205kW@6,000rpm
Max Torque: 390Nm@2,500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed EDC
VES Band: B
0-100kmh: 5.8 seconds
Top Speed: 255kmh
Retail price: *$164,999
Please reconfirm price with the dealer.
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